A Dirk-less Dallas reveals the value of shot creation
A night of Dallas without Dirk Nowitzki would be a thoroughly dull and pointless affair, regardless of outcome, if not for the fact that the wonderful talents of Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game will still be chronicling the events.
While doing his thing for the New York Timesâ€™ Off the Dribble blog, Mahoney talks about the Mavericks 84-76 loss to the Toronto Raptors and what the loss of Nowitzkiâ€™s specific skill set means to Dallas.
The discrepancy in talent between Dirk and his teammates is notable, but the Mavsâ€™ embarrassing loss to a short-handed Raptors team was as attributable to skill set as it was to actual skill. No one on the Mavs can produce at Nowitzkiâ€™s level, but they also canâ€™t even occupy the spaces he normally fills on the floor, create quality shots in a half-court setting, or run the two-man game as a legitimate threat.
Dallas has many useful players, but the dirty little secret of the Mavsâ€™ offense is that almost all of their shot creation is reliant on Nowitzki.
For all the depth the Mavericks and Spurs boast, the truth is all of it is for naught without a catalyst to make their role playersâ€™ skill sets make sense.
So long as he has functional athleticism, Jason Kidd will always be a valuable playmaker because of his ability to see the floor and make the proper reads and passes on each play. But these days heâ€™s more likely to take advantage of broken defenses than actually break them down himself.
The key for any successful offense is establishing at least one focal point that can consistently draw double teams, preferably in the paintâ€”which is why dominant big men are always preferable and Jordan developing a post game made him more effective than when his athleticism was at its peak.
This is why, efficiency be damned, some teams are so quick to line up for the talents of Carmelo Anthony. The thing about role players is that they can do a lot of things at a very high level, but the most difficult thing to do in the NBA is to operate against a set defense.
Perhaps this is why inefficient, high volume gunners are so desirable coming off the bench, because despite their flaws they help the rest of the bench stay within their roles.
For Dallas, Nowitzki is the point of attack that initially disrupts the defense, setting a chain reaction of defensive rotations that eventually culminates in a high percentage look for its individually low efficiency scorers.
In San Antonio, with Duncan no longer commanding double teams on a nightly basis, that role is actually filled by the combination of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
While individually, each can carry an offense for stretches, to truly realize this role they work best in tandem. Manu Ginobili has a Kidd-like instinctive ability to see plays before they happen, which is why his skill set will still remain valuable even after his athleticism diminishes to the point where he no longer creates the action. While Parker leads the team in assists, itâ€™s generally accepted that Ginobili is the superior playmaker.
But the dirty little secret to Ginobili is you can force him to make his teammates beat you. Manu is not the superior athlete you generally think of when you think elite shooting guards. This accounts for the separation between he and a healthy Bryant or Wadeâ€”their ability to consistently take even what a defense does not always give you.
Tony Parker is, perhaps, the one true freakish athlete on the Spurs team capable of accomplishing this. While he’s best known for his scoring exploits, he undeniably makes his teammates better by allowing them broken defenses to operate against.
This is why Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner suddenly make sense, or why the Spurs can pull role players from seemingly nowhere. It’s also why none of it worked last season or the year before, when two of the big three still appeared to be doing their thing and the role players seemed to have failed them.
It’s also why, if the Spurs are to avoid an upset tonight (provided Dirk does not play), they should keep a close eye on J.J. Barea and Jason Terry.